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Mobiles help UK malls track shoppers' every move

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posted on May, 23 2008 @ 08:41 PM
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Mobiles help UK malls track shoppers' every move


www.theregister.co.uk

Mobile phone tracking technology is being put to good use watching how punters migrate around a shopping centre, thanks to gear from Portsmouth-based Path Technologies.

By installing receivers around a shopping centre the company can pick up communication between handsets and base stations, enabling them to track shoppers to within a metre or two - enough to spot the order in which shops are visited. Two UK shopping centres are already using the tech, with three more deploying in the next few months.

This information is used to work out if shoppers are dropping in to visit one particular store, or doing the rounds of 15 different shoe shops before going back to buy the first pair seen. Retailers will pay good money for this kind of data, but while existing solutions are based on counting heads or asking questions of a selected few, watching where the phones go is far more useful.

Most of the GSM connection is encrypted, so there's little chance of an individual customer being identified. Even the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity – the user's phone number) isn't normally sent over the air; the network issues a TMSI (Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity) which is only valid until the next authentication.

A TMSI is like a dynamic IP address, so punters can be tracked as they move around the centre. But if you want to drop off the radar, you can just reset your phone - you'll get a different TMSI to confuse the software with.

Path Intelligence is very keen to distance itself from those privacy-invading companies that track your online existence then claim it's all anonymised. Path will track your real existence, but point out they can't establish who you really are or follow your phone after a reset even if they wanted to.

The company does point out how broadly the concept can be applied. Once one assumes that each person is carrying one mobile phone (a statistically realistic assumption in Europe), then you can track everything from cars driving around a city to how far people will walk across a stadium to get a hotdog.

Trade shows are an obvious application. Knowing how long a visitor spends at each stand is very valuable. The company recently did trials at O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference where the popularity of iPhones meant there was enough GSM technology to gather some useful statistics. For the moment Path Intelligence only does 2G GSM, though supporting CDMA wouldn't be too difficult. 3G GSM is slightly more secure but still uses a TMSI, so those on a 3G network are unlikely to remain untracked for long.

Whether punters will be happy about being tracked anonymously remains to be seen. Path Intelligence points out that it has less information than the network operators, but you might trust your network operator more than the company running the local shopping centre. And while the tracking is anonymous, it wouldn't take a genius to match a tracked phone to a CCTV recording and fill in the gaps for one visit at least.
(visit the link for the full news article)




posted on May, 23 2008 @ 08:41 PM
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To what end, if malls are useing this technology then what about the government, your employer, who knows, is our technology our worst enemy. I found this story to be very interesting. Tracking you without your knowledge and tracking you through your cel phone. There should be a line drawn in the sand about what they can and can not do. I realise todays market place is competative but this is crazy. If the mall dollar store can invest in this who says the government has not installed these around the cities, or your employer in your work place. Watching how much time you spend in the can, where you go and with who. Are we becoming digital slaves? Crazy but not so far off...

www.theregister.co.uk
(visit the link for the full news article)



posted on May, 23 2008 @ 09:21 PM
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Well I was gonna comment on using The Register as a source till I googled 'Mobiles help UK malls track shoppers' every move and the same thing is up there on all the other sites too.

Can't say I'm too surprised though, if the tech allows and there is money to be made it's kind of a given it will happen, no matter how much it makes your skin crawl.

I've been trying to find a link to show how far this sort of tech has got, but I have given up for now, I'll try next I'm online but I will outline the idea.

They can actually collate huge amounts of the 'extra' data that is in the mobile phone system - you could regard this as static... But unlike the static in old analogue systems this has 2 advantages. 1) it's digital!! easily manipulated by computers and 2) it's all in the microwave range (between 1mm and 1m). - So what? well given enough computing power it is perfectly possible to remotely image any where that has a number of active handsets, the more the better. Not kidding here, it would sort of be like the matrix green scrolling screens in a way, all those microwaves pinging around, all the data in already there, it is just not used.

If you don't believe me like I said I will try to link it, there was a short discussion here quite a while ago. You would need to start searching on the research that was going on in getting a victims heart rate and other vitals just by using the microwaves from the handset - I believe dopler shifting was the basic principle, any thing moving would affect this microwave static in such a way that a computer could work it out. From there it is a simple case of upping the amount of data points (more handsets) and viola!! you can image complex moving things - like you, sat in fronts of a computer, not being at all still - unless you are dead of course!



posted on May, 23 2008 @ 09:25 PM
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I don't like it........

That's all I can think to say really, just bad.



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